“Mommy, why don’t we ever go on an airplane?”
I had been waiting for this. Dreading it, really.
“Do you need to go somewhere that involves an airplane?” I asked casually, tossing a pair of butterfly pj’s onto the clean clothes pile.
“No. But all my friends went on airplanes this summer. We didn’t. Why don’t we ever go anywhere in an airplane, Mommy?”
“Well…we will, eventually. Maybe soon,” I answered vaguely, nervously folding, unfolding and re-folding a tiny dinosaur sock that, let’s face it, was just going to end up in a ball at the bottom of his underwear drawer.
And with that, Vince beamed a carefree smile in my direction, settled into the recliner to watch his favorite tv show, and that was it.
Except that wasn’t “it” for me.
I sat there sorting Captain America shirts and Frozen bath towels and biting my tongue. Why? Because it wouldn’t really be appropriate to blurt out to a five-year old how our innocent four- sentence converstation had just sent me into a tailspin.
How little questions like these pinch my soul like his sister sometimes pinches him when he’s not paying attention to her.
How it was slightly more embarrassing every time someone said, “Oohhhh, well that’s nice too,” after I had clarified that our summer vacation had been to Portland, Maine, not Portland, Oregon (for the record, Maine is one of my favorite places in the world, although I’m sure Oregon is equally lovely).
How I have to plaster a smile onto my face whenever I get stuck having a conversation with someone who tells me just how important it is for me to travel with my children so they don’t miss out on life experiences.
During these conversations there’s also a healthy dose of, “Oh, we’ll travel eventually, but we aren’t taking any trips that involve a flight until they’re old enough to carry their own bags.”
I mean, that is part of it. I really don’t have any desire to drag 4 suitcases, 2 carry-ons, 1 Minnie Mouse backpack, 1 Spiderman backpack, 2 blankets, 9 “please quiet down” snacks, and 2 squirmy kids that are taking turns having to pee, through a security checkpoint.
But the rest of it is…well…flights for 4 people are expensive.
When I was little we didn’t even ask about “big” trips. Our vacations involved either a beach in New Jersey or my uncle’s condo in Vermont. There were no exceptions. And you know what? My sister and I looked forward to that one week in Wildwood or Killington so much that you would think our parents were taking us to Europe for six months.
We couldn’t wait to play Go Fish on top of the big red cooler that was squished between us in the backseat of our 1979 Thunderbird. We giggled uncontrollably when we finally got the golf ball in the alligator’s mouth on the little “course” next to the hotel parking lot in Wildwood. We patiently walked through each Vermont maple syrup tour to get our well-deserved leaf- shaped candies in the gift shop.
I have so many memories of our “adventures”. But perhaps my favorite is from one particular evening when we arrived at my uncle’s condo. It was just around midnight when I saw the soft glow from the “Wintergreen” sign coming up in the distance. My father parked our big old boat of a car, then gingerly lifted me out of the backseat and wrapped me in his arms. I sleepily inhaled the scent of spruce trees and fireplaces and listened to the soft crunch of gravel and pine needles under his feet as he carried me up the stairs and through the front door. On particularly stressful days I sometimes close my eyes and return to the scent of those spruce trees, the soft bounce of his steps, and the gentle crunch of the pine needles under his shoes.
I don’t really recall any of what was said during the maple syrup tours, or how many times we played miniature golf on that faded, sandy course. But I do remember the way that candy melted in my mouth, and the sound of the ball plunking itself into the little plastic cup as I jumped up and down victoriously. I remember the steam dancing out of my father’s coffee mug as he sat on the deck of the condo in Vermont reading the morning paper. I remember my mother carefully brushing my long, wild hair and slipping a little bag of quarters into my hand before we stepped into the bright lights and booming music of the boardwalk.
It’s funny what we remember, isn’t it?
And that got me thinking (Me? Overthinking? Shocking, really)… I started to wonder what moments he’ll close his eyes to revisit.
Maybe it will be that moment when the little gasp escaped his lips as we made it to the top of our waterfall hike in Hallowell, Maine, and he declared, “You can see the whole world from up here!”
Maybe he’ll close his eyes and smell the sea air that breezed around our table at the Portland Lobster Company (Portland Maine, just to be clear) as his calamari was set down in front of him and he decided it was “the most fish rings I’ve ever seen in my life!”
Maybe it will be those 30 seconds that we were suspended on our stomachs, side-by-side, as the Kite Flight ride at Dutch Wonderland slowed down, and he looked at me and said, “This was an amazing day, Mommy.”
Or maybe he’ll want to go back to the first time he dared to jump into the pool all by himself at the hotel in Scarborough…or that night in Boston when Pat brought Gracie up to bed and I let him sit with me in the Jacuzzi “like a big kid,” or when he stood by the water in Portsmouth, watching the ships go by and giggling as Grace yelled, “I see butts! Vincent look! Big, big butts!”
I stopped mentally calculating how much overtime Pat would have to work for us to get to Disney in the next 6 months, and started laughing.
“What?” Vince asked.
“Nothing,” I replied. “I was just thinking of that day in New Hampshire when Gracie was yelling about the big butts. Do you remember that?”
“Oh yeah! That was such a fun day! We went to the beach that day too, and the sand was all smushy in my toes, and I found that huuuuuge shell that’s in my room now, and me and you ate that really gooey brownie with the coconut and the chocolate chips at the coffee place, and….”
As he rambled on, it became pretty clear that even if we can’t give him Paris (Hell, we can’t even give him Portland, Oregon), I guess we’re still giving him plenty of moments to remember.
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